Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Thursday, June 07, 2012

My Mysterious Phillips Family

Have you ever wished that one of your ancestors was still alive so that they could tell you more about one of their ancestors? My paternal grandmother, Nona Josiah "Jodie" Fowlkes Thornton, died when I was ten (almost eleven). She insisted that we call her "Grandmother," so that is how I will refer to her through the remainder of this post. I can remember her telling me about how people were related, but of course, I didn't pay much attention to it at that age. My older brothers, father, and cousins have told me that she could tell you the exact degree of relation persons had to you--"Oh, that's your first cousin three times removed" or "he's your second cousin twice removed."

Well, when it comes to researching her mother's ancestral paternal family, that kind of knowledge would come in quite handy. Unfortunately, my dad and uncle have long since forgotten what she may have told them.

Grandmother's mother was Lucinda Virginia "Jennie" Phillips Fowlkes Howell. Jennie's first husband was Josiah Fowlkes. They had five children:

Martha Matilda "Mattie" Fowlkes (1885-1919)
William Daniel "Dee" Fowlkes (1887-1933)
Lera Belle Fowlkes (1888-1928)
Norma J. Fowlkes (b. 1892)
Nona Josiah "Jodie" Fowlkes (1894-1974)

Her husband Josiah died the day before Grandmother was born in 1894. She then married John Howell who already had a family of five children from his previous marriage to Martha Caroline Chism. These five children were:

Jessie William Howell (1880-1954)
Ida Pearla Howell (1886-1977)
Mary Lee Howell (1888-1969)
Ollie Howell (1894-1918)
Auzzie Green Howell (1896-1961)

Jennie and John had five more children:

Dewey Rosco Howell (1898-1966)
Lonie Adeline Howell (1900-1968)
John Roman Howell (1902-1970)
George Rubel Howell (1904-1972)
Vera Mae Howell (1909-1951)

The groups of the children became known among my family as "my children," "his children," and "our children." I'm sure his children identified what we called "my children" as "her children."

This is a photo of Jennie in her later years.

Lucinda Virginia "Jennie" Phillips Fowlkes Howell
Now to move back another generation . . .

Jennie's father was W. D. Phillips. There is some debate over whether his name was William Daniel Phillips as suggested by his grandson's name or William David Phillips. I personally think his middle name was probably Daniel, but I can't really prove it.

W. D. Phillips married Mary Elizabeth Fowlkes on 3 Jan 1861 in Monroe County, Mississippi. (One of the databases give 2 Jan 1861, but that was the date the license was issued, not the day the marriage was performed.)

Census records don't add a lot to our knowledge of him. In the 1860 census, he is age 24, born in Alabama, and living with his future in-laws. (It is spelled Philips in this census.) This is the only positive identification I have made of him.

There is a William Phillips (age 14) in the household of Nancy Phillips in the 1850 census for Wilcox County, Alabama. This is a bit further south in Alabama than usual migration patterns to Monroe County, Mississippi, and further efforts in researching this line have not produced results.  There is a William Phillips (age 14) in the Madison County, Alabama census of 1850 who is in the household of Thomas, but I've been unable to have success in identifying him as W. D.

I've looked at other records in Mississippi for Phillips families in Monroe and Itawamba Counties including some huge chancery files on which I spent a great deal of money photocopying. I thought I was getting close, but then I came up with negative evidence.

By the way, Jennie who was born 16 March 1865 is apparently the only daughter of W. D. Phillips and Mary Elizabeth Fowlkes. The family does not appear on the 1870 census. The 1920 census shows that Jennie's mother had remarried. She is listed as Elisabeth Curry, age 79, and widowed. (The marriage took place in Lee County, Mississippi on 23 May 1877.) There is also an entry in the Isaac J. Curry family of 1880 in Monroe County, Mississippi for Jessie L. Phillips, a step-daughter, age 15, which appears to be Jennie. (There is a Jennie, age 18, listed as a servant in the George Tubb family in the same county.) Her father did not die in the war because she has a younger sibling Sarah R. listed in the 1880 census for the Curry family.

One of these days, I'll get back to researching this line and make a breakthrough!


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